Following on from the MindManager for Windows 2017 preview which I discussed in a recent post, Mindjet has just completed a series of five sneak peeks looking at some of the key features of the new version. These demonstrate a strong emphasis on extending Mindjet’s capabilities in relation to presentation, integration with other software and project management, but they also raise some tantalising questions about how far these new features actually will go. Here are the key links:
- Mindmanager 2017 for Windows Preview
- MindManager 2017 for Windows Sneak Peek – Part 1: Universal file export with HTML 5
- MindManager 2017 for Windows Sneak Peek – Part 2: Introducing Zapier and how to use it to export from MM to other applications
- MindManager 2017 for Windows Sneak Peek – Part 3: Using Zapier to send data from other apps to MM
- MindManager 2017 for Windows Sneak Peek – Part 4: New project management capabilities including critical path
- MindManager 2017 for Windows Sneak Peek – Part 5: New timeline diagrams
I won’t go over the material in these sneak peeks in detail but I thought I’d provide a quick summary and offer some observations.
HTML 5 export
This is a feature which many users have sought for a long time. According to Mindjet it will offer “offers close to 100% parity with MindManager maps” and in particular “greater visual parity” between the original map and the exported version: ie, they will look more alike, and support all map layouts. In addition, file attachments, topic numbering, properties, comments and custom topic shapes are all supported in the HTML export.
Users will be able to publish the map to any browser that supports HTML 5. Navigation and viewing commands will be available to “fit the map to the screen, zoom in or out, focus and center the map”. The current Mindjet Viewer export facility will be retired with the release of MM 2017.
A sample interactive export map available on the sneak peak page demonstrates the potential of the new export facility. The map opens quickly in a Windows browser and it is easy to centre and zoom the map and open and close sub-branches. Most though not all of the foreshadowed features are demonstrated and appear to work well. The map also opens easily on an iPad, though the viewing commands and sub-branch opening appear to require a double-click.
For many users the usefulness of this feature will be determined by whether a vital facility not mentioned in the sneak peek is actually available in the export – hyperlinks on topics. If these are included the potential of exported maps would be greatly increased; for example, HTML 5 maps could be used as the front end of a web site to provide a more attractive interface. Indeed if links are preserved in the HTML 5 export this could be a killer feature for MM.
Update: Mindjet have just confirmed in the MindManager community forum that the HTML 5 export facility will indeed contain hyperlinks. The comment from a Mindjet representative states:
The HTML5 export that will ship with MM 2017 supports hyperlinks only (to web pages). In 17.1 or sooner we will support topic links within the same map. We are still investigating how to support local and network links from an HTML document.
Further information will be provided in the release notes. Even just with the ability to link to web pages I think (as I said earlier) that this will be a major new feature that will greatly increase the potential range of uses of MindManager.
Important though HTML 5 map export may be, the biggest news – especially in Mindjet’s eyes – is Zapier integration.
This is currently available in the Enterprise version of MM 16, though it will be extended to all users in MM 17. According to Mindjet, “Zapier is a smart, easily configured process and task automation platform that lets you connect all your favorite apps”, which allows you to “send information from your MindManager maps to hundreds of applications as well as receive content from those applications directly in your MindManager maps.”
Users will need to create both a Zapier account and “the new MindManager account”. Then they can create “Zaps” which are blueprints or recipes for linking applications and specifying what should happen. Zapier has a claimed 700+ connected applications which MM 17 will be able to link to.
Zapier can work both ways. Users will be able to send MM tasks to Zapier and based on the Zaps they have created these will be sent to other applications to create tasks, trigger notifications or even insert material into databases. Zapier will also integrate with CRM applications.
This all looks great but there is one downside. While Zapier offers a free account this appears to be fairly basic, while the next level up costs US$20 a month. Admittedly this isn’t a lot of money but with the move to a subscription model gaining momentum it will add to the monthly overhead for organisations which require multiple licences.
The main new feature is the addition of critical path management – again a feature that many users have sought for a long time. As Mindjet notes, when the option to “Show Critical Path in Map & Gantt” is selected, “icons indicating the task is critical will appear on relevant topics and the path will be highlighted on the Gantt chart”. A filter has been added that will show or hide critical tasks.
The task highlighting feature has also been expanded with options that allow users to change the topic fill colors for tasks that are “Late, At-Risk and tasks that have been completed.” This is a very welcome step towards replacing the functionality that was lost when Mindjet acquired Power Markers and dumped the conditional task formatting feature that made this such a powerful add-in. In addition users will have the ability to toggle between highlighting only roll-up tasks or all tasks in the map.
While these features are largely incremental they may be enough to allow some users to manage projects entirely within MM. The lack of the critical path feature in particular has been a deal breaker for some project managers.
The final sneak peek deals with the introduction of timeline diagrams. As Mindjet observes, timeline diagrams display a series of events in chronological order. Traditionally these have been static diagrams but the new MM feature will be “dynamic and interactive”.
Users will be able to open and close timeline branches and “highlight events with meta data like priority or other icon markers, hyperlinks, notes, attachments, etc.” The marker index can also be used to navigate the timeline or to apply filters. They will be available in either horizontal or vertical layouts and the scale of the timeline will be “determined by the user and the context of the diagram being created”. It will even be possible to have multiple timelines in a single map, each starting with a separate floating topic.
While this is a new feature for Mindjet, several of the company’s competitors added timelines to their programs a while ago. The implementation as described in the sneak peek does however appear to offer greater flexibility as well as the potential to be combined with other features such as HTML 5 export and critical path analysis.
A number of other features were outlined in the preview but have not been the subject of a separate sneak peek. These include simplified flowchart creation, enhanced diagram tools, a “flyout topic shape selector”, right-angle relationship lines, “new calendar display options”, 600 additional images and “simplified file management”.
Like the more substantial features described in the sneak peeks these are all welcome additions which have the potential to expand the usefulness of MM. Ultimately a lot will depend however on how well all the new features have been integrated within the program, and with each other.